The ugly face of American racism

The recent events in Charlottesville have removed the plastic on the concealed racism that has plagued the United States of America for centuries. And President Donald Trump’s response further removed the veneer that glossed over the issue since the Civil Rights movement.

In 2017, to have white men and women marching down a street in a country that proudly boasts of being the leader of the free world, shouting slogans of an extreme racist ideology and extolling the virtues of Nazism is beyond belief. But to then have the President speak in a manner which highlighted the “nice” people among those who exemplified hate was even more disturbing.

But why should anyone be surprised? Trump came into office riding a wave of bigotry. He was voted in by those white Americans who by and large accept an agenda and a narrative of a white America. A narrative that spewed ridicule at others who were not white, who were ‘Latino’, and in many cases who were Muslim.

Trump surrounded himself with advisers who are well-known racists and bigots. So should anyone be alarmed that his policies have given rise and fuel to these white extremists who feel empowered? Trump has radicalized them even more.

I find interesting the terminologies coined for these groups and further find amusing how the media spin these terminologies to create mindsets. For example, neo-Nazis, racists, bigots are known as the ‘far right’. Is there anything “right” about these people? Those who oppose this hateful ideology are referred to as the “far left”. Now usually being on the ‘right’ means just that, being in the right. And being on the ‘left’ infers being in the wrong.

The ideology of hate is systemic in the United States and it requires a major operation to remove this cancer. Racism sadly is found not only in the US but in many parts of the world, among many societies and even in faith-based communities.

It is noteworthy that the white marchers in Charlottesville who identify themselves with Christianity, chose to voice slogans like “Jews will not replace us”. An article in the Washington Post highlights this occurrence:

“When white nationalists descended upon the historic Virginia city to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, their “Unite the Right” rally gathered a veritable who’s who of top neo-Nazis in the United States, including Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and alt-right leading light Richard Spencer, among others.

They immediately went after the Jews. At their Friday night rally at the University of Virginia, the white nationalists brandished torches and chanted anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans, including“blood and soil” (an English rendering of the Nazi “blut und boden”) and “Jews will not replace us” — all crafted to cast Jews as foreign interlopers who need to be expunged. The attendees proudly displayed giant swastikas and wore shirts emblazoned with quotes from Adolf Hitler. Onebannerread,“Jews are Satan’s children.”

“The truth is,” Duke told a large crowd Saturday,“the American media, and the American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause.”

It is therefore interesting to find in the United States, an ardent supporter of Israel, such hatred of Jewish people by white persons. A person of colour or a Muslim making such remarks would have been condemned as anti-Semitic, labelled a terrorist, detained and most likely end up on a no-fly list.

The double standards are blatant. The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville were armed to the max with high-powered weapons as exposed by the media.  Has any of these persons been charged? Once again, I am almost certain that a person of colour or a Muslim would have been arrested and charged under the Terrorist Act had such weapons been found on them.

Five days before his assassination on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X spoke to an audience at the Corn Hill Methodist Church in Rochester, New York. I reproduce excerpts from that speech because I believe it resonates today some 52 years after.

“I believe in the brotherhood of man. But despite the fact that I believe in the brotherhood of man, I have to be a realist and realize that here in America we’re in a society that doesn’t practice brotherhood. It doesn’t practice what it preaches. It preaches brotherhood, but it doesn’t practice brotherhood…

But we also realize that the problem facing Black people in this country is so complex and so involved and has been here so long, unsolved, that it is absolutely necessary for us to form another organization…. the Organization of Afro-American Unity, ….and we have that set up because we realize that we have to fight against the evils of a society that has failed to produce brotherhood for every member of that society. This in no way means that we’re antiwhite, antiblue, antigreen, or antiyellow. We’re antiwrong. We’re antidiscrimination. We’re antisegregation. We’re against anybody who wants to practice some form of segregation or discrimination against us because we don’t happen to be a colour that’s acceptable to you.

We don’t judge a man because of the colour of his skin. We don’t judge you because you’re white; we don’t judge you because you’re black; we don’t judge you because you’re brown. We judge you because of what you do and what you practice. And as long as you practice evil, we’re against you. And for us,  the worst form of evil is the evil that’s based upon judging a man because of the colour of his skin. And I don’t think anybody here can deny that we’re living in a society that just doesn’t judge a man according to his talents, according to his know-how, according to his possibility — background, or lack of academic background. This society judges a man solely upon the colour of his skin. If you’re white, you can go forward, and if you’re Black, you have to fight your way every step of the way, and you still don’t get forward.

We are living in a society that is by and large controlled by people who believe in segregation. We are living in a society that is by and large controlled by a people who believe in racism, and practice segregation and discrimination and racism. …So we’re not against people because they’re white. But we’re against those who practice racism….. The press says we’re violent. We’re not for violence. We’re for peace. But the people that we’re up against are for violence.”

Source: (Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace., secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email:suleimanbulbulia@hotmail.com)

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